CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE LOVE STORY—NOTHING HELD BACK!

Put down that romance novel and read this incredible love story between Isaac and Rebekah!  You will love what God does in the lives of those who faithfully believe and trust in Him!  God impresses Abraham to follow His plan through his trusted servant who also believes in Him and bam, it happens. What is “it”?  God arranges a marriage of His choosing for Isaac, Abraham and Sarah’s beloved son.  But will they love each other?  YES!  When God, who is Love, is in it, there is nothing held back!  His love flows through His chosen. 

This is a love story of God displayed in two people, Isaac and Rebekah. 

Did God choose your spouse for you? I would have to say, YES!  When I was drawn to a certain young man when both of us where sixteen years of age, I prayed, “God, if this is the one, let it be.”  God answered that prayer.  Over fifty years later, we are united as one with God leading us together on our faith journey with God. 

In the western world we think it is very odd for parents to arrange the marriages of their children.  In the time of Abraham, it was common.  It some countries, arrangements are still commonly made today.  Parents want the very best for their children is, or this should be the reason.  They want their heritage and generation line to continue through their children.  They seek spouses who will be suitable in more ways than one. 

It is wonderful when the man and woman come together in the arrangement as two who truly love each other “at first sight” and want the arrangement to be fulfilled for a lifetime!  This is the love story of Isaac and Rebekah.  Isaac will follow Abraham in his father’s footsteps.  You will see similarities in Rebekah to Sarah as well.  Let’s dive in…

Genesis 24, The Message

Isaac and Rebekah

24 Abraham was now an old man. God had blessed Abraham in every way.

2-4 Abraham spoke to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of everything he had, “Put your hand under my thigh and swear by God—God of Heaven, God of Earth—that you will not get a wife for my son from among the young women of the Canaanites here, but will go to the land of my birth and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

The servant answered, “But what if the woman refuses to leave home and come with me? Do I then take your son back to your home country?”

6-8 Abraham said, “Oh no. Never. By no means are you to take my son back there. God, the God of Heaven, took me from the home of my father and from the country of my birth and spoke to me in solemn promise, ‘I’m giving this land to your descendants.’ This God will send his angel ahead of you to get a wife for my son. And if the woman won’t come, you are free from this oath you’ve sworn to me. But under no circumstances are you to take my son back there.”

So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and gave his solemn oath.

10-14 The servant took ten of his master’s camels and, loaded with gifts from his master, traveled to Aram Naharaim and the city of Nahor. Outside the city, he made the camels kneel at a well. It was evening, the time when the women came to draw water. He prayed, “O God, God of my master Abraham, make things go smoothly this day; treat my master Abraham well! As I stand here by the spring while the young women of the town come out to get water, let the girl to whom I say, ‘Lower your jug and give me a drink,’ and who answers, ‘Drink, and let me also water your camels’—let her be the woman you have picked out for your servant Isaac. Then I’ll know that you’re working graciously behind the scenes for my master.”

15-17 It so happened that the words were barely out of his mouth when Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel whose mother was Milcah the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with a water jug on her shoulder. The girl was stunningly beautiful, a pure virgin. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came back up. The servant ran to meet her and said, “Please, can I have a sip of water from your jug?”

18-21 She said, “Certainly, drink!” And she held the jug so that he could drink. When he had satisfied his thirst she said, “I’ll get water for your camels, too, until they’ve drunk their fill.” She promptly emptied her jug into the trough and ran back to the well to fill it, and she kept at it until she had watered all the camels.

The man watched, silent. Was this God’s answer? Had God made his trip a success or not?

22-23 When the camels had finished drinking, the man brought out gifts, a gold nose ring weighing a little over a quarter of an ounce and two arm bracelets weighing about four ounces, and gave them to her. He asked her, “Tell me about your family? Whose daughter are you? Is there room in your father’s house for us to stay the night?”

24-25 She said, “I’m the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah and Nahor. And there’s plenty of room in our house for you to stay—and lots of straw and feed besides.”

26-27 At this the man bowed in worship before God and prayed, “Blessed be God, God of my master Abraham: How generous and true you’ve been to my master; you’ve held nothing back. You led me right to the door of my master’s brother!”

28 And the girl was off and running, telling everyone in her mother’s house what had happened.

29-31 Rebekah had a brother named Laban. Laban ran outside to the man at the spring. He had seen the nose ring and the bracelets on his sister and had heard her say, “The man said this and this and this to me.” So he went to the man and there he was, still standing with his camels at the spring. Laban welcomed him: “Come on in, blessed of God! Why are you standing out here? I’ve got the house ready for you; and there’s also a place for your camels.”

32-33 So the man went into the house. The camels were unloaded and given straw and feed. Water was brought to bathe the feet of the man and the men with him. Then Laban brought out food. But the man said, “I won’t eat until I tell my story.”

Laban said, “Go ahead; tell us.”

34-41 The servant said, “I’m the servant of Abraham. God has blessed my master—he’s a great man; God has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, servants and maidservants, camels and donkeys. And then to top it off, Sarah, my master’s wife, gave him a son in her old age and he has passed everything on to his son. My master made me promise, ‘Don’t get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I live. No, go to my father’s home, back to my family, and get a wife for my son there.’ I said to my master, ‘But what if the woman won’t come with me?’ He said, ‘God before whom I’ve walked faithfully will send his angel with you and he’ll make things work out so that you’ll bring back a wife for my son from my family, from the house of my father. Then you’ll be free from the oath. If you go to my family and they won’t give her to you, you will also be free from the oath.’

42-44 “Well, when I came this very day to the spring, I prayed, ‘God, God of my master Abraham, make things turn out well in this task I’ve been given. I’m standing at this well. When a young woman comes here to draw water and I say to her, Please, give me a sip of water from your jug, and she says, Not only will I give you a drink, I’ll also water your camels—let that woman be the wife God has picked out for my master’s son.’

45-48 “I had barely finished offering this prayer, when Rebekah arrived, her jug on her shoulder. She went to the spring and drew water and I said, ‘Please, can I have a drink?’ She didn’t hesitate. She held out her jug and said, ‘Drink; and when you’re finished I’ll also water your camels.’ I drank, and she watered the camels. I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel whose parents were Nahor and Milcah.’ I gave her a ring for her nose, bracelets for her arms, and bowed in worship to God. I praised God, the God of my master Abraham who had led me straight to the door of my master’s family to get a wife for his son.

49 “Now, tell me what you are going to do. If you plan to respond with a generous yes, tell me. But if not, tell me plainly so I can figure out what to do next.”

50-51 Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is undeniably from God. We have no say in the matter, either yes or no. Rebekah is yours: Take her and go; let her be the wife of your master’s son, as God has made plain.”

52-54 When Abraham’s servant heard their decision, he bowed in worship before God. Then he brought out gifts of silver and gold and clothing and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave expensive gifts to her brother and mother. He and his men had supper and spent the night. But first thing in the morning they were up. He said, “Send me back to my master.”

55 Her brother and mother said, “Let the girl stay a while, say another ten days, and then go.”

56 He said, “Oh, don’t make me wait! God has worked everything out so well—send me off to my master.”

57 They said, “We’ll call the girl; we’ll ask her.”

They called Rebekah and asked her, “Do you want to go with this man?”

58 She said, “I’m ready to go.”

59-60 So they sent them off, their sister Rebekah with her nurse, and Abraham’s servant with his men. And they blessed Rebekah saying,

    You’re our sister—live bountifully!
    And your children, triumphantly!

61 Rebekah and her young maids mounted the camels and followed the man. The servant took Rebekah and set off for home.

62-65 Isaac was living in the Negev. He had just come back from a visit to Beer Lahai Roi. In the evening he went out into the field; while meditating he looked up and saw camels coming. When Rebekah looked up and saw Isaac, she got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man out in the field coming toward us?”

“That is my master.”

She took her veil and covered herself.

66-67 After the servant told Isaac the whole story of the trip, Isaac took Rebekah into the tent of his mother Sarah. He married Rebekah and she became his wife and he loved her. So Isaac found comfort after his mother’s death.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

What did I tell you?  Isn’t this the greatest love story between God and two people who love Him that you have ever read?  Love and obedience to God results in God’s powerful blessings in all kinds of ways that amaze us!  God should be the arranger of all marriages!  God can and he will, when we pray asking for his will be done!  God holds nothing back when we pray asking for his wisdom and guidance in our relationships.  This story of God through Isaac and Rebekah is proof!

Let’s recap….

Isaac was still in mourning over the death of his beloved mother, Sarah. Abraham is older now, still in mourning for Sarah, too; but knows God has blessed him incredibly.  He now seeks to care for his son, Isaac as God cared for Abraham as any good parent would do. 

What we can do is pray for God to show our children and grandchildren the spouse he is preparing for them!  He will answer this prayer!

Isaac was the promised son who will carry on the promises of God to fill the land God gave Abraham with as many descendants as “grains of sand” and “stars in the sky”.  The promise begins with finding a suitable wife for Isaac.  We will see that God is in all the details!  He chooses who is best for Isaac!  The servant prayed. God answered.

After the search is over by a trusted servant and the servant travels back home with Rebekah, she sees Isaac in the field.  Her heart is full as she asks, “who is that man?”  The servant clarifies that Isaac is the one, his master, who she will marry.  They meet, they know instantly.  Love at first sight at its best!  Rebekah chosen by God for Isaac.  When God is in it, perfect abiding love abounds!  (But, wait…there’s more!)

How do we respond?

PRAY. ALWAYS. ABOUT EVERYTHING! As servants of God who believe and follow Him, we pray sincerely and humbly as Abraham’s servant prayed.  Pray BEFORE decisions are made, asking God what He thinks, what you should do, where you should go; because what He has planned is always the best for us!  Don’t get in the way, follow His way.

“Show me your ways, O Lord so I can walk in them…He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.”  Psalm 25

Lord,

Be in the details of my life today and always.  I’m listening, ready to obey.  I want what you want for your ways are always to best way for me.  You know me.  You know my needs before I do!  Why trust anyone but you.  I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  You are my hope.  You are Hope for all who believe and follow you. Keep me close to you all day long, bringing me word of your unfailing love.  I am yours.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE FAMILY BURIAL SITE

I was raised in Oklahoma.  Both of my parents’ families settled two generations back near the towns of Prague and Stroud on land in which they farmed in all kinds of ways to earn a living.  They raised stock and planted gardens that provided a self-sustaining lifestyle.  They sold off the rest to buy more stock and pay the bills.  They had other talents and abilities that God used to build his church among them. 

My grandpa was a talented carpenter, for example. He helped to build the church I grew up in by being the general contractor as well as all the wood related work inside. Uncle Archie was a barber that gave my little brother his first haircut.  Many were musicians. My grandpa’s brother was a preacher and began a church in another area in the country.  Though not rich, just rich in faith, they lived in gratitude to God. They were not perfect but knew the God of forgiveness.  When family or even strangers were in trouble, they stepped in to help.  This is my heritage. 

On “Decoration Day” also known as Memorial Day, my parents, taught by their parents, would drive around to the family burial sites to lay flowers on graves.  This was important to my family.  When I was a child, we would meet other family members who had moved away at one of the grave sites.  After laying flowers, having prayer, we then had a picnic at the nearby park in town, played ball, and laughed while hearing stories of the past about our loved ones who had gone on before us. 

Later, as a young adult, my parents took great joy in driving me and my family to all the now sold off farms of our family members to show us where everyone was buried so we wouldn’t forget. They told stories of their own childhood, the churches they attended, their faith stories, the places they went to along with the experiences they had with their cousins and best friends growing up.  They told me everything of who did what to whom with a complete commentary!  (Smiling) Yes, my grandparents and parents kept the memories alive, impressing their journey upon me by showing me the places they had traveled.  I hold these memories close to my heart.  Seeing the places brought me into the story. 

Yes, in those days most people were buried on the farmland they owned in a specific, peaceful location typical on a hill under some trees.  It was the custom.  It still is the custom with people who own their own land of sizable proportion.  But now, life is different.  Like many of us today, we must buy a burial plot on land designated as a cemetery to bury our dead or we have the option to be cremated, avoiding the cost of a plot of ground. It is big business to accommodate the dead with dignity.  Many people in mourning are taken advantage of in this time of grief.   

A company or organization cares for the land where people lay to rest their family members.  You don’t own the land, only the few feet of a rectangular piece about six feet under the ground to accommodate the casket in which the body turns back to dust and bones.  Some will come to lay flowers on the grave year after year, but many do not. 

We understand why Abraham, a “stranger” in the land God gave him, wants to buy a piece of land to bury his precious Sarah. He wants it to be his own place.  He wants to purchase it in front of the town council which makes the transaction legal and binding with witnesses the see and hear what takes place.  (That was the custom of making transactions legit.) He is mourning for his Sarah and wants to honor her with a dignified place to bury her body.  We get it, don’t we?  We are sad with Abraham.  Isaac is a young man around 27 years of age at this time.  Abraham’s example will be impressed upon his son.

Genesis 23, The Message

1-2 Sarah lived 127 years. Sarah died in Kiriath Arba, present-day Hebron, in the land of Canaan. Abraham mourned for Sarah and wept.

3-4 Then Abraham got up from mourning his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites: “I know I’m only an outsider here among you, but sell me a burial plot so that I can bury my dead decently.”

5-6 The Hittites responded, “Why, you’re no mere outsider here with us, you’re a prince of God! Bury your dead wife in the best of our burial sites. None of us will refuse you a place for burial.”

7-9 Then Abraham got up, bowed respectfully to the people of the land, the Hittites, and said, “If you’re serious about helping me give my wife a proper burial, intercede for me with Ephron son of Zohar. Ask him to sell me the cave of Machpelah that he owns, the one at the end of his land. Ask him to sell it to me at its full price for a burial plot, with you as witnesses.”

10-11 Ephron was part of the local Hittite community. Then Ephron the Hittite spoke up, answering Abraham with all the Hittites who were part of the town council listening: “Oh no, my master! I couldn’t do that. The field is yours—a gift. I’ll give it and the cave to you. With my people as witnesses, I give it to you. Bury your deceased wife.”

12-13 Abraham bowed respectfully before the assembled council and answered Ephron: “Please allow me—I want to pay the price of the land; take my money so that I can go ahead and bury my wife.”

14-15 Then Ephron answered Abraham, “If you insist, master. What’s four hundred silver shekels between us? Now go ahead and bury your wife.”

16 Abraham accepted Ephron’s offer and paid out the sum that Ephron had named before the town council of Hittites—four hundred silver shekels at the current exchange rate.

17-20 That’s how Ephron’s field next to Mamre—the field, its cave, and all the trees within its borders—became Abraham’s property. The town council of Hittites witnessed the transaction. Abraham then proceeded to bury his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah that is next to Mamre, present-day Hebron, in the land of Canaan. The field and its cave went from the Hittites into Abraham’s possession as a burial plot.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

As Abraham buries Sarah, memories must flood his mind, remembering all they had experienced together.  They left the home they were raised to go where God led.  Together they learned to be obedient to God.  Now they are separated, but God is still with Abraham. 

Abraham wants to do what is right in the eyes of God.  God is still leading this man of faith.  To those living in the land around him, Abraham is recognized as a man of great character, “prince of God”, along with being a man of great integrity.  We can learn much about living our lives before God from Abraham’s relationship with God and with those around him in the land of Canaan.

Even in mourning, be the person who lives for God, led by God’s Spirit, as a habit of doing what is pleasing to God.  Be all-in with God, doing more than is required by the standard of the world.

Lord,

You are God and we are not.  I trust in you alone to teach me what is right, good and pleasing to you.  May the power of your Holy Spirit continue to guide me, teach me and show me your way to follow.  Grow the fruits of Your Holy Spirit in me so I will live a life pleasing to you.  From the inside out, I want to please you.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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AFTER ALL THIS…

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Today we speak of sacrifice in many ways. “I sacrificed family time for this job and no one appreciates it.”  “I sacrificed my hard-earned savings so I could help him start over in his life.”  “I sacrificed lunch so I could come home earlier from work.”  “I sacrificed sleep to watch that movie last night.”  We use the word sacrifice loosely without thinking about the seriousness or depth of the word. 

Sacrifice defined 

sacrifice is a loss or something you give up, usually for the sake of a better cause. In today’s thinking, parents sacrifice time and sleep to take care of their children, while kids might sacrifice TV time to hang out with mom and dad.  That would be amazing wouldn’t it—for kids to sacrifice time to be with parents?! 

Though no longer used only in a religious context, sacrifice comes from the Latin sacra and facere, meaning “to perform sacred rites.” If you’ve studied ancient cultures like the Incas, you’ve probably heard of “human sacrifice,” where a person is killed in a sacred ceremony to please the gods. But thankfully those kinds of sacrifices don’t happen anymore.

Only one time has God asked one of His people to sacrifice a human in obedience to Him.  In today’s passage of God’s Story, this is the time.  But relax, it was only a test.  Abraham passed with flying colors!  Abraham has lived long enough to know that what God says he will do.  God promised a son to Abraham.  God delivered Isaac to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, even when they laughed at the news!  Now God is asking Abraham to give up that very promised son, Isaac, who is precious to him for what is precious to God—a relentless, unconditional, nothing held back, relationship with God. 

Will Abraham love God enough to do what God asks?  Is Abraham willing to sacrifice his son who he loves with all his heart in obedience to God who He also loves? Will be bargain with God? Yes, he does exactly what God told him to do.  No, he did not bargain for Isaac’s life.  He was willing to lose his son to please God in obedience.  Abraham’s obedience was driven by his relentless, abiding faith. He obeyed God completely in every detail of the request without question.  For Abraham so loved God that he was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  Sound familiar?  This is the kind of loving relationship that God wants with us.  For God so loved He gave, as a sacrifice, his One and Only Son, Jesus to die for all our sins so that our relationship with Him could be possible.  Jesus, Son of God, was sacrificed for the sins of the world.  Debt paid in full.

Lose to Gain

What can we possible give God in return?  He wants us to love Him back!  “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) He wants our love—all of it—heart, mind and soul, nothing held back.  God loves faithful obedience motivated by our love for Him more than sacrifice as we will learn later.  (1 Samuel 15:22) But the willingness to sacrifice whatever stands between ourselves and God is always gain for us.  “Lose your life to gain eternal life”, Jesus teaches us.  Willingness to give up what is precious to you for a real, living and growing, intimate relationship with God is priceless.  God blesses obedience and faithfulness to Him. 

Genesis 22, The Message

(Emphasis mine)

After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!”

“Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.”

He said, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.”

3-5 Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him. On the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. Abraham told his two young servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I are going over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together.

Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father?”

“Yes, my son.”

“We have flint and wood, but where’s the sheep for the burnt offering?”

Abraham said, “Son, God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering.” And they kept on walking together.

9-10 They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son.

11 Just then an angel of God called to him out of Heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes, I’m listening.”

12 “Don’t lay a hand on that boy! Don’t touch him! Now I know how fearlessly you fear God; you didn’t hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me.”

13 Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

14 Abraham named that place God-Yireh (God-Sees-to-It). That’s where we get the saying, “On the mountain of God, he sees to it.”

15-18 The angel of God spoke from Heaven a second time to Abraham: “I swear—God’s sure word!—because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you—oh, how I’ll bless you! And I’ll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies. All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed me.”

19 Then Abraham went back to his young servants. They got things together and returned to Beersheba. Abraham settled down in Beersheba.

* * *

20-23 After all this, Abraham got the news: “Your brother Nahor is a father! Milcah has given him children: Uz, his firstborn, his brother Buz, Kemuel (he was the father of Aram), Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” (Bethuel was the father of Rebekah.) Milcah gave these eight sons to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.

24 His concubine, Reumah, gave him four more children: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESOND?

When God spoke, Abraham not only listened, he responded to God, Yes, I’m listening.”  When God speaks to us, do we put him off for later when we think we have more time?  I hope not.  God’s timing is perfect.  To do what He says at the time He says it produces blessing from God that might be missed.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss a thing!

Abraham wasted no time to respond in obedience in doing the hardest, life-altering task of his life!  He got up early the next morning, gathered the supplies needed and took off for the mountain to meet God to fulfill what He told Abraham to do. 

How do we respond to the hard tasks God asks us to do?  Do we jump right on it, or put off the hard stuff of life?  Yikes, I know I hit a nerve.  How do we respond today to tasks from God we know will require a “sacrifice” of our precious time?  Today’s dilemma and focus seems to be more on our time sacrificed than anything else.

Abraham didn’t try to strike a bargain with God for his son!  Do we catch ourselves bargaining with God?  “God, I give you Sunday morning if you’ll give me a raise in pay on my job.”  “God, I’ll give to the poor, if you’ll give me more time to vacation.”  Abraham had bargained before when God decided to destroy the city where Lot, his nephew resided.  But not this time.  Abraham as asking for someone else, not for him. 

Abraham has to be wondering how God can give and then take away, but he still walks forward on that hard, bumpy path to obedience with his son.  But Abraham’s heart is so focused on God’s faithfulness and love for him that he does not argue with God.  He is driven to obey God.

How driven and focused are we to obey what God says in every detail?

Paul tells us how and what to sacrifice to please God that results in knowing His perfect will.  Ready for the secret sauce?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:1-2, NIV

Need further clarification?  Read The Message paraphrase of the same verses.

Place Your Life Before God

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”  Romans 12:1-2, The Message

My prayer this morning,

In Jesus Name, For His Glory, Amen

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YET HERE I AM

We hear the call of God.  Then we wait for God to do exactly what He says.  In the wait, God is still working but we sometimes feel that we need to help God fulfill his call to us.  That’s when mistakes multiply and evil enters in with efforts to thwart the will of God.  God works in us and through us to mature us in our love, trust, faith and hope in Him.  God works in people around us in the same ways.  All who believe in God are called to do His will in His way in His time.  He doesn’t change his purpose even when we rebel and change the circumstances.  He makes it all good come to fruition even from our messes and mistakes in judgement.  God has a plan; we are not powerful enough to stop it.  And I’m so glad I can’t, aren’t you?

I am transfixed and focused on the words that leap off the page for me from Sarah’s lips upon giving birth to Isaac…”Yet here I am.”  She thought of what others had said about her.  Sarah may have remembered how she went ahead of God’s plan and ordered Abraham to sleep with her servant which caused a royal mess.  Yes, Sarah messed up but God’s plan and promise were still intact.  Sarah’s mistakes did not stop God’s plan for His people.  Sarah revels and celebrates in what God has done through her in His timing with joy, “Whoever would have suggested to Abraham that Sarah would one day nurse a baby! Yet here I am! I’ve given the old man a son!  The Message paraphrase of this story makes it real, something I would say while smiling with gratefulness.  What God said happened exactly as he said it would.   

When will we learn that our missteps in judgement, our mistakes in doing His will, along with our sins of rebellion in our growing up with God will NOT cause God to throw up his hands and say, “I can’t work with her any longer, she’s an idiot.” 

Dear friends, I’ve thought that from time to time, then God comes to me and reminds me I don’t have that kind of power or control.  God knows we will fail, make mistakes and sin as we travel here on our journeys of faith and trust in Him.  Believe that God is God alone and does not need our help.  God invites us to His work to mature in our love for Him, but God ultimately accomplishes His will and plan.  And get this and take it to heart, God navigates our bad for His good!  And only God is truly good, teaches Jesus. 

I’ve messed up, yet here I am, God still loving me unconditionally and forever, making His plan work to His good and for His glory.  We can understand this truth from Paul who messed up in his early life then became God’s apostle who spread the Good News to the Gentile nations.  Paul knew the compassion and greatness of God personally and knew the power of God’s ability to fulfill his purpose in all of us.  He writes;

“And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believer in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:27-39, NLT

Read, think, pray then live what we learn.  With these thoughts abiding in us, let’s read on as we continue the story of God displayed through Abraham and his family…

Genesis 21, The Message

1-God visited Sarah exactly as he said he would; God did to Sarah what he promised: Sarah became pregnant and gave Abraham a son in his old age, and at the very time God had set. Abraham named him Isaac. When his son was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him just as God had commanded.

5-6 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born.

Sarah said,

    God has blessed me with laughter
    and all who get the news will laugh with me!

She also said,

    Whoever would have suggested to Abraham
    that Sarah would one day nurse a baby!
    Yet here I am! I’ve given the old man a son!

The baby grew and was weaned. Abraham threw a big party on the day Isaac was weaned.

9-10 One day Sarah saw the son that Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, poking fun at her son Isaac. She told Abraham, “Get rid of this slave woman and her son. No child of this slave is going to share inheritance with my son Isaac!”

11-13 The matter gave great pain to Abraham—after all, Ishmael was his son. But God spoke to Abraham, “Don’t feel badly about the boy and your maid. Do whatever Sarah tells you. Your descendants will come through Isaac. Regarding your maid’s son, be assured that I’ll also develop a great nation from him—he’s your son, too.”

14-16 Abraham got up early the next morning, got some food together and a canteen of water for Hagar, put them on her back and sent her away with the child. She wandered off into the desert of Beersheba. When the water was gone, she left the child under a shrub and went off, fifty yards or so. She said, “I can’t watch my son die.” As she sat, she broke into sobs.

17-18 Meanwhile, God heard the boy crying. The angel of God called from Heaven to Hagar, “What’s wrong, Hagar? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy and knows the fix he’s in. Up now; go get the boy. Hold him tight. I’m going to make of him a great nation.”

19 Just then God opened her eyes. She looked. She saw a well of water. She went to it and filled her canteen and gave the boy a long, cool drink.

20-21 God was on the boy’s side as he grew up. He lived out in the desert and became a skilled archer. He lived in the Paran wilderness. And his mother got him a wife from Egypt.

22-23 At about that same time, Abimelech and the captain of his troops, Phicol, spoke to Abraham: “No matter what you do, God is on your side. So swear to me that you won’t do anything underhanded to me or any of my family. For as long as you live here, swear that you’ll treat me and my land as well as I’ve treated you.”

24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”

25-26 At the same time, Abraham confronted Abimelech over the matter of a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had taken. Abimelech said, “I have no idea who did this; you never told me about it; this is the first I’ve heard of it.”

27-28 So the two of them made a covenant. Abraham took sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech. Abraham set aside seven sheep from his flock.

29 Abimelech said, “What does this mean? These seven sheep you’ve set aside.”

30 Abraham said, “It means that when you accept these seven sheep, you take it as proof that I dug this well, that it’s my well.”

31-32 That’s how the place got named Beersheba (the Oath-Well), because the two of them swore a covenant oath there. After they had made the covenant at Beersheba, Abimelech and his commander, Phicol, left and went back to Philistine territory.

33-34 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and worshiped God there, praying to the Eternal God. Abraham lived in Philistine country for a long time.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  Romans 3:23

God is with Abraham, Sarah and Hagar.  God sees, hears and helps them through difficult circumstances.  God’s love for his people will not change.  His mercies are fresh daily.  God’s purpose will be fulfilled.  How do we respond?  With grateful hearts for He does the same for us, in and through us!

We all mess up.  I’ve messed up.  Yet here I am.  I’ve repented.  God forgave me.  God cleanses my heart, renews my Spirit and restores the joy of his salvation in me as promised.  I’m redeemed, bought at a high price by Jesus who is my Lord.  God shows his love for us daily by giving us His Holy Spirit to guide us.  God’s plan for me will prevail for “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.”  1 John 4:4 

What would we do if we knew and truly believed that no matter what God’s will would be done?

We’ve all been called according to the purpose of God. What is this purpose? Yes, it includes saving you from sin and death. But it also includes joining God in his work of restoring the broken world through Christ. Through our words and our works, we can partner with God as he unites all things in Christ. Because we have been called according to God’s purpose, our lives have eternal purpose as well. This purpose shapes both what we do and who we are.

We are not perfect but we are perfectly forgiven. This is why we point people to our Perfect Lord and Savior who saved us and set us in right standing with God.  May God’s will be done in every detail of our lives is our prayer.

Lord,

Yet here I am loving you, trusting in You for you are my Hope.  Help us all who believe to grow and mature from our failures for that is part of your preparation to fulfill your plan for us.  Help us to do exactly what your prophet said about what you require from us—“to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with you” knowing in our hearts that you will work all things good according to your purpose.  Here I am, listening and learning, for I am Yours.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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ASSUMPTIONS LEAD TO DECEPTIONS

The longer I live on this earth, the more I’m learning from observing in humans like myself.  We have all taken on a greater sin that prevents real communication with each other.  That sin is assuming.  We assume what others are thinking and judge people by what we think they are thinking. 

Stay with me, it gets worse.  We spend a good amount of time assuming what our family, friends and frienemies (friends who aren’t really friends and are considered enemies), are thinking while preparing scenarios of rebuttals of what we will say back to them before they say what we think they will say to us.  Confused?  Keep reading.  To go farther in this sin of assumption, we actually do unto others BEFORE they do it to us!  We are assuming this is God’s way—no, it’s not.

The story of God through Abraham proves that assuming leads to thoughts and actions of fear which leads to deception, which results in hurting everyone caught up in the lie.  God intervenes and corrects the paths of those who believe in Him.  And we are glad He does!

Genesis 20, The Message

1-2 Abraham traveled from there south to the Negev and settled down between Kadesh and Shur. While he was camping in Gerar, Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She’s my sister.”

2-3 So Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Abimelech in a dream that night and told him, “You’re as good as dead—that woman you took, she’s a married woman.”

4-5 Now Abimelech had not yet slept with her, hadn’t so much as touched her. He said, “Master, would you kill an innocent man? Didn’t he tell me, ‘She’s my sister’? And didn’t she herself say, ‘He’s my brother’? I had no idea I was doing anything wrong when I did this.”

6-7 God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know your intentions were pure, that’s why I kept you from sinning against me; I was the one who kept you from going to bed with her. So now give the man’s wife back to him. He’s a prophet and will pray for you—pray for your life. If you don’t give her back, know that it’s certain death both for you and everyone in your family.”

8-9 Abimelech was up first thing in the morning. He called all his house servants together and told them the whole story. They were shocked. Then Abimelech called in Abraham and said, “What have you done to us? What have I ever done to you that you would bring on me and my kingdom this huge offense? What you’ve done to me ought never to have been done.”

10 Abimelech went on to Abraham, “Whatever were you thinking of when you did this thing?”

11-13 Abraham said, “I just assumed that there was no fear of God in this place and that they’d kill me to get my wife. Besides, the truth is that she is my half sister; she’s my father’s daughter but not my mother’s. When God sent me out as a wanderer from my father’s home, I told her, ‘Do me a favor; wherever we go, tell people that I’m your brother.’”

14-15 Then Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham, and along with her sent sheep and cattle and servants, both male and female. He said, “My land is open to you; live wherever you wish.”

16 And to Sarah he said, “I’ve given your brother a thousand pieces of silver—that clears you of even a shadow of suspicion before the eyes of the world. You’re vindicated.”

17-18 Then Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his maidservants, and they started having babies again. For God had shut down every womb in Abimelech’s household on account of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Of the “Big Ten” commandments God will give to Moses later, one of them is, “Thou shalt not lie, bear false witness against your neighbor”.  (KJV, it’s how I memorized them as a kid) Maybe we need bullet points under the command statement of “Don’t lie” to make it even more clear today.  It might look like this:

“Don’t Lie”

  • Don’t lie about your neighbor
  • Don’t assume you know your neighbor
  • Don’t presume the actions of your neighbor
  • Talk with your neighbor, get to know your neigbor, come to agreement with your neighbor
  • Listen to what your neighbor has to say without thinking about how you will respond. 
  • Really listen.  Learn to assume nothing.

And who are our neighbors?  Jesus, the One and Only who knows our hearts, the ONLY one with the power to assume, knew we would ask.  So, Jesus explains who are neighbors are in story form so we will understand.  See Luke 10:25-37.  Jesus ends His story with “Go and do likewise.”  

Assuming is just another way to judge each other.  Jesus said, “Judge not.” 

The sin of assuming takes our thoughts captive for an unhealthy amount of time, robbing us of the joy of the Lord in us.  What we think rarely happens, so why spend time thinking on it? 

A byproduct of our lack of assumption is peace—Buckets of peace and oodles of joy-filled living.

Oh Lord,

Help us to rid ourselves of the sin of assuming that lies on the surface of our thinking.  Help us to think like you taught Paul and he passed on to the church at Philippi, “filling our minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”  Guide my thinking on these things instead of assuming.  Yes, help me to think more and more like you so I will love others like you love me.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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VICTIMS CRY OUT—GOD RESPONDS

I had a dear friend years ago who gave me great advice from time to time as a parent of three who were competitive and fought over who got the biggest and best piece of whatever they were given to share. She had raised two boys to adulthood.  In teaching each of her boys with perspective in “fairness”, she would tell one son to divide what was to be shared, but the other boy would have first choice of the two pieces.  Impressive, right?!  What wisdom!  The son dividing the treat thought twice about making the cut, knowing his brother would get first choice.  Peace between brothers was the result. 

Abraham divided the land God gave to them, but Lot had first choice of where he would go and settle.  Lot chose Sodom.

We all have that relative that seems to be followed by a black cloud hanging over their heads.  They assume that bad luck follows them wherever they go.  Lot seems to be that relative of Abraham.  Abraham graciously allows Lot to choose which land, but he didn’t choose well.  As Lot looked over the land, he chose what he thought was the best land, greener, more pasture for stock, the land of Sodom.  Lot thought he “had it made”.  The downside was that Sodom had the reputation of “being full of evil.”    

Abraham was a man of God, guided by God, worshiped God and listen to His direction.  Lot, his nephew, followed his own desires and instincts.  Lot knew of God through watching Abraham relate to God but Lot doesn’t seem to have the relationship with God that Abraham has.  Lot’s faith is based in knowing his uncle.  Abraham is told what will happen to Sodom and Gomorrah and has asked God to save his nephew and family as we read yesterday in Genesis 18. 

I confess.  I was in Lot’s position of weak faith in my early twenties.  I was raised in church where my parents and grandparents served with strong, committed faith and relationship with God.  In a crossroads experience, I learned I was merely hanging onto the “coattails” of their faith.  I needed to commit to a faith in God in relationship to Him myself.  I was glad for this crisis of faith-believing for only then did my relationship with God become real, binding, growing and complete.

Pause to read, think, pray…

Is my relationship with God based merely on the faith of those I believe to have faith or do I have faith, trust and hope in God no matter what they believe and do? 

Do I really believe what God says really real? 

Does my behavior show what I believe about God? 

Our real belief will always show through our “first thought” behaviors.  What is in our hearts will eventually flow out through what we do. Many leaders do not realize that what is in their hearts comes out of their mouths.  In other words, What is in a man comes out of the man.” (Proverbs 12:14) If one’s heart is filled with evil, accepting evil; then he will speak evil. If one’s heart is filled with God, then he will think, speak and do what God says.  We have only two choices.

Evil that includes all sexual perversions of evil have created victims who have cried out to God for help.  God is responding.  He will destroy these cities of evil in such a way nothing will ever grow there again.  Lot is living in the middle of it all with his family.

How does evil progress to this point?  Evil flourishes where it is given free rein to do so. Evil has one purpose—to destroy every living creature and human in its path.  What looked good to Lot is now threatening his faith as well as his very life.  Is it any wonder Lot is sitting at the gate?  Is he avoiding the corruption and turning his head from what is happening inside the gate?  Abraham’s faith and relationship with God saves his nephew, Lot.  Reading this story of God’s power at work, it seems Lot, being submersed in a city of evil has actually learned to live with it, accepting the life he chose to live.  He knows it is wrong but evil has taken over to the point he feels he cannot fight it.  Then God shows up to rescue him and his family.

Lot recognizes the angel messengers from God and welcomes them, even tries to protect them who came to protect him!  So, there is some faith left in Lot.  He takes them in. Evil comes knocking at the door, Lot offers his daughters as a sacrifice to evil.  Has he resigned himself to evil, played the games of evil, to the point of accepting its power? 

The angels have the power to cause the evil gang of men to go blind.  Is Lot awakened from his stupor of acceptance of evil to recognize God at work?  Not quite, yet.  The angels, sent by God to destroy the city, now warn Lot to get out with his family, but he drags his feet!   Lot, what are you thinking?!

Pause for a minute…how many times has God tried to pull us from the fires that seek to destroy us?  How many times as God sent a lifeboat and we said, “No, I’m good, I can handle the storm and choppy waves that are drowning me.”  How many times have we drug our feet while He is trying to rescue us from what is bad for us? 

That dark cloud hanging over our heads probably isn’t “bad luck” at all.  It might be our unwillingness to follow the One and Only who loves us most, has our name written on the palm of his hand, knows what we need and provides all we need with our best interest in His heart. 

Lot questions his rescue, bargains with God’s messengers, but has enough faith left from his observations of Abraham’s life to finally make his escape.

Genesis 19, The Message

1-2 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening. Lot was sitting at the city gate. He saw them and got up to welcome them, bowing before them and said, “Please, my friends, come to my house and stay the night. Wash up. You can rise early and be on your way refreshed.”

They said, “No, we’ll sleep in the street.”

But he insisted, wouldn’t take no for an answer; and they relented and went home with him. Lot fixed a hot meal for them and they ate.

4-5 Before they went to bed, men from all over the city of Sodom, young and old, descended on the house from all sides and boxed them in. They yelled to Lot, “Where are the men who are staying with you for the night? Bring them out so we can have our sport with them!”

6-8 Lot went out, barring the door behind him, and said, “Brothers, please, don’t be vile! Look, I have two daughters, virgins; let me bring them out; you can take your pleasure with them, but don’t touch these men—they’re my guests.”

They said, “Get lost! You drop in from nowhere and now you’re going to tell us how to run our lives. We’ll treat you worse than them!” And they charged past Lot to break down the door.

10-11 But the two men reached out and pulled Lot inside the house, locking the door. Then they struck blind the men who were trying to break down the door, both leaders and followers, leaving them groping in the dark.

12-13 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have any other family here? Sons, daughters—anybody in the city? Get them out of here, and now! We’re going to destroy this place. The outcries of victims here to God are deafening; we’ve been sent to blast this place into oblivion.”

14 Lot went out and warned the fiancés of his daughters, “Evacuate this place; God is about to destroy this city!” But his daughters’ would-be husbands treated it as a joke.

15 At break of day, the angels pushed Lot to get going, “Hurry. Get your wife and two daughters out of here before it’s too late and you’re caught in the punishment of the city.”

16-17 Lot was dragging his feet. The men grabbed Lot’s arm, and the arms of his wife and daughters—God was so merciful to them!—and dragged them to safety outside the city. When they had them outside, Lot was told, “Now run for your life! Don’t look back! Don’t stop anywhere on the plain—run for the hills or you’ll be swept away.”

18-20 But Lot protested, “No, masters, you can’t mean it! I know that you’ve taken a liking to me and have done me an immense favor in saving my life, but I can’t run for the mountains—who knows what terrible thing might happen to me in the mountains and leave me for dead. Look over there—that town is close enough to get to. It’s a small town, hardly anything to it. Let me escape there and save my life—it’s a mere wide place in the road.”

21-22 “All right, Lot. If you insist. I’ll let you have your way. And I won’t stamp out the town you’ve spotted. But hurry up. Run for it! I can’t do anything until you get there.” That’s why the town was called Zoar, that is, Smalltown.

23 The sun was high in the sky when Lot arrived at Zoar.

24-25 Then God rained brimstone and fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah—a river of lava from God out of the sky!—and destroyed these cities and the entire plain and everyone who lived in the cities and everything that grew from the ground.

26 But Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt.

27-28 Abraham got up early the next morning and went to the place he had so recently stood with God. He looked out over Sodom and Gomorrah, surveying the whole plain. All he could see was smoke belching from the Earth, like smoke from a furnace.

29 And that’s the story: When God destroyed the Cities of the Plain, he was mindful of Abraham and first got Lot out of there before he blasted those cities off the face of the Earth.

30 Lot left Zoar and went into the mountains to live with his two daughters; he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He lived in a cave with his daughters.

31-32 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is getting old and there’s not a man left in the country by whom we can get pregnant. Let’s get our father drunk with wine and lie with him. We’ll get children through our father—it’s our only chance to keep our family alive.”

33-35 They got their father drunk with wine that very night. The older daughter went and lay with him. He was oblivious, knowing nothing of what she did. The next morning the older said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Tonight, it’s your turn. We’ll get him drunk again and then you sleep with him. We’ll both get a child through our father and keep our family alive.” So that night they got their father drunk again and the younger went in and slept with him. Again he was oblivious, knowing nothing of what she did.

36-38 Both daughters became pregnant by their father, Lot. The older daughter had a son and named him Moab, the ancestor of the present-day Moabites. The younger daughter had a son and named him Ben-Ammi, the ancestor of the present-day Ammonites.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

When we’re in a bad place and God sends a rescue—GET OUT!

Even though the way out seems unlikely and foreign to us, heed the red flags of warnings, don’t succumb to the evil around us–just GET OUT!

Don’t bargain with God, asking for our will and way to be done.  Just Trust God.

“Now run for your life! Don’t look back! Don’t stop anywhere on the plain—run for the hills or you’ll be swept away.”

Avoid being the one who looked back and regretted it.  Too salty for you?  Don’t mess with God!

Oh Lord,

There are so many faith lessons to be learned from your story of your rescue of Lot.  What a mighty God you are!  What power you have over evil!  What loving, longsuffering patience you have with us.  How gentle you are in our crisis of faith.  You hear and answer prayer from victims of evil.  You save us from ourselves.  You forgive us for our sins.  You deepen our faith.  Thank you for teaching me, helping to see that accepting evil leads to death.  Thank you for rescuing me.  Thank you, Jesus for redeeming my soul.  Thank you for getting me out of situations that would harm me.  Now help me to live what you have impressed on my heart.  Our relationship is real and for my part, it is growing stronger deeper still.  You are Hope.  You are my life.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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RELATIONSHIP

You know when you know.  There are some relationships that you have over the years of our lives that cannot be broken.  When you have them, you cherish them.  These relationships can go for long stretches of time without seeing them, be separated by distance, and still the relationship is there.  You don’t always agree about everything in life, but the love and respect you have for each other and their family is the glue that cements the relationship.  You meet from time to time and just pick up the conversation where you left off that last time you saw or spoke with them.  I’m thinking of my friends’ relationships right now and smiling.  Are you?  Yes, we cherish these precious, unconditional, loving, forever relationships. 

Abraham and God have a relationship that tops all human relationships.  Abraham knows that His relationship with God is the most important relationship he will ever have in his life.  Abraham and God don’t always agree and certainly Abraham is less than perfect in his behaviors, but God loves him deeply knowing that Abraham respects and loves God back.

When God shows up, Abraham looks up, gets us and immediately bows before him—taking on the role of a servant.  Read, think, pray as we learn from Abraham’s behavior in his relationship to God.  Abraham gives his best to His Master showing us the epitome of hospitality because of who he is.  “Stop, rest, refresh—I’ll get water to wash your feet!”  “Sarah, make bread!”  “Servants, kill the best, fatted calf, cook and serve the meal to our guests while they rest in the shade.”  This is love expressed with awe and respect for God.

Yes, when the God of Abraham shows up with his angels, Abraham jumps to action to show his love.  Remember the promise of God to Abraham about fathering future generations?  It is time.  The wait is over.  “By this time next year”, Sarah will have her first son, Isaac, in her loving arms.  Sarah laughed at the thought in herself—and God heard those snickers.  The name Isaac, meaning “laughter”, reflects the first thought that came to their minds after God’s announcement.  Remember, earlier God caught Abraham laughing to himself.  Sarah laughed when she heard the news! Can you blame them?  They’re approaching 100 years old! 

There are two lessons here:

–It’s never too late for God to intervene to fulfill His purpose and will through us.

–Don’t mess with God, He knows our thoughts! 

Part two of the Visit

Meanwhile, remember Lot who separated from Abraham and went to Sodom to raise his family?  We were told earlier that Sodom was “full of evil”.  Lot thought he was choosing the “greener grass” but turns out what looked good was rotten to the core!  Isn’t that the way evil works to draw us in? 

Well, things went from bad to worse.  The sin of this city spread to nearby Gomorrah. Sins beyond our wildest thinking or imagining were producing victim of horror!  God heard the victims cry out for mercy and made plans through His messengers to stop the evil dead in its tracks.  So, there is another stop to make after delivering the news of the impending birth of Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac, God’s promise to Abraham. 

Genesis 18, The Message

1-2 God appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing. He ran from his tent to greet them and bowed before them.

3-5 He said, “Master, if it please you, stop for a while with your servant. I’ll get some water so you can wash your feet. Rest under this tree. I’ll get some food to refresh you on your way, since your travels have brought you across my path.”

They said, “Certainly. Go ahead.”

Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. He said, “Hurry. Get three cups of our best flour; knead it and make bread.”

7-8 Then Abraham ran to the cattle pen and picked out a nice plump calf and gave it to the servant who lost no time getting it ready. Then he got curds and milk, brought them with the calf that had been roasted, set the meal before the men, and stood there under the tree while they ate.

The men said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?”

He said, “In the tent.”

10 One of them said, “I’m coming back about this time next year. When I arrive, your wife Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was listening at the tent opening, just behind the man.

11-12 Abraham and Sarah were old by this time, very old. Sarah was far past the age for having babies. Sarah laughed within herself, “An old woman like me? Get pregnant? With this old man of a husband?”

13-14 God said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh saying, ‘Me? Have a baby? An old woman like me?’ Is anything too hard for God? I’ll be back about this time next year and Sarah will have a baby.”

15 Sarah lied. She said, “I didn’t laugh,” because she was afraid.

But he said, “Yes you did; you laughed.”

* * *

16 When the men got up to leave, they set off for Sodom. Abraham walked with them to say good-bye.

17-19 Then God said, “Shall I keep back from Abraham what I’m about to do? Abraham is going to become a large and strong nation; all the nations of the world are going to find themselves blessed through him. Yes, I’ve settled on him as the one to train his children and future family to observe God’s way of life, live kindly and generously and fairly, so that God can complete in Abraham what he promised him.”

20-21 God continued, “The cries of the victims in Sodom and Gomorrah are deafening; the sin of those cities is immense. I’m going down to see for myself, see if what they’re doing is as bad as it sounds. Then I’ll know.”

22 The men set out for Sodom, but Abraham stood in God’s path, blocking his way.

23-25 Abraham confronted him, “Are you serious? Are you planning on getting rid of the good people right along with the bad? What if there are fifty decent people left in the city; will you lump the good with the bad and get rid of the lot? Wouldn’t you spare the city for the sake of those fifty innocents? I can’t believe you’d do that, kill off the good and the bad alike as if there were no difference between them. Doesn’t the Judge of all the Earth judge with justice?”

26 God said, “If I find fifty decent people in the city of Sodom, I’ll spare the place just for them.”

27-28 Abraham came back, “Do I, a mere mortal made from a handful of dirt, dare open my mouth again to my Master? What if the fifty fall short by five—would you destroy the city because of those missing five?”

He said, “I won’t destroy it if there are forty-five.”

29 Abraham spoke up again, “What if you only find forty?”

“Neither will I destroy it if for forty.”

30 He said, “Master, don’t be irritated with me, but what if only thirty are found?”

“No, I won’t do it if I find thirty.”

31 He pushed on, “I know I’m trying your patience, Master, but how about for twenty?”

“I won’t destroy it for twenty.”

32 He wouldn’t quit, “Don’t get angry, Master—this is the last time. What if you only come up with ten?”

“For the sake of only ten, I won’t destroy the city.”

33 When God finished talking with Abraham, he left. And Abraham went home.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Our relationship with God must be honest and sincere as well as loving and kind with respectful “hospitality” of service to God. 

We must realize that NOTHING is impossible with God.  He has proven His power over and over again through His Word and to us!

We can converse with God asking for mercy for those who we love.  That’s how we learn to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with him—all the requirements God gave us to live well in relationship with Him.  (Micah 6:8)  Lot is on Abraham’s mind as he questions God about destroying the evil cities.

Trust God. Build a relationship of trust with God.  He can do anything, you know!  Mm, can God trust me, like he trusted Abraham with information of importance?

Communicate in communion with God.  How long has it been since you talked with God?  –And listened, ready to serve in obedience to God?

When we talk with God, do we also lean in to listen intently to what He has to say in answer to our questions?  Frustrations in life come from not listening.

Our relationship grows as we commune with God hourly, daily, 24/7.  To know God is to be still, let go of all distractions and worries around us and really listen, believing God knows what is right and true.  When we do, God will change our thinking and give us peace.  The apostle Paul explains,

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9, NLT

Lord,

The more I learn the more I know I need to learn.  Thank you for being patient with me as we build our forever relationship.  Forever—I like the sound of that.  Some relationships come and go, but our relationship is forever!  All because of Jesus! I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  How can I serve you today?

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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MALE-BONDING, COVENANT BINDING

There is nothing more male bonding that going to the “big game” with other males who enjoy the competition of sports along with the conversations about sports.  They love to commentate and speculate no matter what game they’re watching.  Sometimes, as the female of the family, I join in but from a different perspective.  I form relationships with my teams and are loyal only to them.  If my teams are not playing, I am not interested. 

Not so with most of the males in my family, they are interested in any game at any time no matter who is playing.  That’s just the way it is.  Male-bonding at it’s best.  I provide the snacks.  In observing this male-bonding phenomenon I have learned that they are “all in” no matter what is happening around them.  Their extreme focus and attention to detail are amazing!  You cannot get their attention in the middle of a game unless you use food.  The strong bond with each other, built over the years, is through their enjoyment of being a part of the game.

I think of this as I read our next passage.  I’ll admit, I am laughing a bit out loud as God provides a male-bonding experience for Abram and his household that I’m sure no one saw coming!  God uses this extreme male-bonding experience that “cuts to the chase” of what he expects from Abram, his male household and his male descendants. The directive is clear.  The promise of God is real.  The covenant is permanent.  “That way my covenant will be cut into your body, a permanent mark of my permanent covenant.”  God is serious.  “I am The Strong God, LIVE ENTIRELY before me”, says God.  Abram makes the cut—”just as God had told him.”

Genesis 17, The Message

1-2 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God showed up and said to him, “I am The Strong God, live entirely before me, live to the hilt! I’ll make a covenant between us and I’ll give you a huge family.”

3-8 Overwhelmed, Abram fell flat on his face.

Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: You’ll be the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham, meaning that ‘I’m making you the father of many nations.’ I’ll make you a father of fathers—I’ll make nations from you, kings will issue from you. I’m establishing my covenant between me and you, a covenant that includes your descendants, a covenant that goes on and on and on, a covenant that commits me to be your God and the God of your descendants. And I’m giving you and your descendants this land where you’re now just camping, this whole country of Canaan, to own forever. And I’ll be their God.”

9-14 God continued to Abraham, “And you: You will honor my covenant, you and your descendants, generation after generation. This is the covenant that you are to honor, the covenant that pulls in all your descendants: Circumcise every male. Circumcise by cutting off the foreskin of the penis; it will be the sign of the covenant between us. Every male baby will be circumcised when he is eight days old, generation after generation—this includes house-born slaves and slaves bought from outsiders who are not blood kin. Make sure you circumcise both your own children and anyone brought in from the outside. That way my covenant will be cut into your body, a permanent mark of my permanent covenant. An uncircumcised male, one who has not had the foreskin of his penis cut off, will be cut off from his people—he has broken my covenant.”

15-16 God continued speaking to Abraham, “And Sarai your wife: Don’t call her Sarai any longer; call her Sarah. I’ll bless her—yes! I’ll give you a son by her! Oh, how I’ll bless her! Nations will come from her; kings of nations will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell flat on his face. And then he laughed, thinking, “Can a hundred-year-old man father a son? And can Sarah, at ninety years, have a baby?”

18 Recovering, Abraham said to God, “Oh, keep Ishmael alive and well before you!”

19 But God said, “That’s not what I mean. Your wife, Sarah, will have a baby, a son. Name him Isaac (Laughter). I’ll establish my covenant with him and his descendants, a covenant that lasts forever.

20-21 “And Ishmael? Yes, I heard your prayer for him. I’ll also bless him; I’ll make sure he has plenty of children—a huge family. He’ll father twelve princes; I’ll make him a great nation. But I’ll establish my covenant with Isaac whom Sarah will give you about this time next year.”

22 God finished speaking with Abraham and left.

23 Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all his servants, whether houseborn or purchased—every male in his household—and circumcised them, cutting off their foreskins that very day, just as God had told him.

24-27 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised. His son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised. Abraham and Ishmael were circumcised the same day together with all the servants of his household, those born there and those purchased from outsiders—all were circumcised with him.

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

After the mess Sarai made to “help God” bless Abram with a large family, (Genesis 16), God shows up.  I love it when God shows up with compassionate forgiveness and gets His plan back in motion after missteps I make that causes problems and delays!  God sees that lessons in waiting are learned, so He shows up with what HE wants and clarifies His Plan with Abram.  He does that for us, too when we humble ourselves before Him.    

Abram is overwhelmed when God shows up for him again and falls facedown (humbled) before God.  After a messy cleanup, isn’t it just like God to show up and redirect our attention and focus back to Him and His best for us?  We are ready for God through our humbled posture to God.

God begins by telling Abram the details of His covenant to Abram.  The details include permanency.  God clearly wants Abram to know that Abram’s part is “live entirely before me, live to the hilt!”  In other words, be ALL IN, Abram!  To show it, Abram must make a permanent, no going back, cut into his body to represent the permanency of God’s Covenant with him. 

Read, think, pray, live!

As we read this I wonder, how seriously do I take God at His Word to me? 

Do I really believe what God says to be really real? 

Am I “all in”, living entirely before God, asking God what He wants each day, living in humbled expectation of God?

Am I merely a spectator of life or am I a contributing part of the life God has planned for me?

When God shows up in our lives, permanent changes are made.  We are never the same once we give our lives to God, living entirely before him by the work and power of Jesus who saved us and renewed our relationship with God!

God changed Abram’s body, gave him a new name that described what God was going to do through him, changed his wife’s name, and renewed his relationship and covenant with Him. A year later, a son is born to Sarah, which shows it is never too late to accomplish the will of God.  God said His name is Isaac, which means laughter, because Abram laughed to himself to think God would actually do exactly what He said.  Mm, don’t mess with God.  God does what He says!

Lord,

You are so patient with us but you do have directives for us that teach us, draw us closer to you and show us your love, mercy and grace.  Thank you for being with us.  Thank you for show up when we need you most.  Thank you for providing for us before we know we need it.  Your will and the ways to accomplish your plan are always best.  I lay my life before you this morning as a living offering to you. I want your perfect will to be done in my life.  I’m entirely yours.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen

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GOD NEEDS NO HELP FROM US…

When will ever get this right?  God leads us, we don’t lead Him.  God tells us what to do with how, when and where if we listen.  But when God seems late in making it happen for us, why do we step in to help the God of Creation with our own small efforts?  We’ve all done it, admit it.  Let’s confess now that our efforts pale in comparison to God’s ways.  Most (every) times we make life worse, creating messes that only God can clean up.  Let’s give all praise, honor and glory to God for “fixing” our mistakes through our impatience and “making all things turn out for good for those who love Him”.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Oh God, we are such a mess at times.  How we must make you sigh when we try to take over your will by thinking we have better ways for speeding up your process, changing the course, not following your directions in the least because of our impatience!  Help us to learn to wait for your best!  

We, who have also jumped ahead of God at times, cannot judge Sarai to harshly when she stepped up to “help” God with his promise to Abram to birth the generations.  Sarai’s biological clock is ticking.  She is old and still hasn’t gotten pregnant with their first child, let alone a “nation” of children.  In that culture, to be barren is humiliating.  So, she births a plan to help God along in His plan.  She pays the price for doing so, however.  To make matters worse, Abram blames her for what happens though He (like Adam) was a willing participate in Sarai’s plan!

There will always be extreme hurt with complications when we depart God’s will for our will.  Hagar, the obedient servant, did what she was told but became a casualty of war between Sarai and her husband.  But we have an Almighty God who steps into our lives, corrects our course and helps those we hurt in the process.  God is good.  We need His help.

There is no scripture more heart stirring and comforting than the words of God to Hagar, “I hear you.” Hagar has lived in a household led by Abram who loves God in relationship.  He regularly communes with God.  So, Hagar has been introduced to God.  Now when she is thrown out, alone, not knowing what is next for her, Abram’s God becomes her God! 

“She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me!” 

“Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!”

Are tears coming to your eyes to read and understand what is going on here?  God is for all, created all, is in all, and makes things right when we mess life up by our disobedient impatience.  Sarai messed up.  She brought Abram in on the scheme to “help” God.  Hagar was a “casualty of war” in Sarai’s plan.  Sarai’s plan was not God’s plan.  God did not need Sarai’s help.  God does not need our help to accomplish His plan but He will invite us to his work to accomplish it.  Wait for it…Wait for His invitation! 

Genesis 16, The Message

1-2 Sarai, Abram’s wife, hadn’t yet produced a child.

She had an Egyptian maid named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “God has not seen fit to let me have a child. Sleep with my maid. Maybe I can get a family from her.” Abram agreed to do what Sarai said.

3-4 So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took her Egyptian maid Hagar and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. Abram had been living ten years in Canaan when this took place. He slept with Hagar and she got pregnant. When Hagar learned she was pregnant, she looked down on her mistress.

Sarai told Abram, “It’s all your fault that I’m suffering this abuse. I put my maid in bed with you and the minute she knows she’s pregnant, she treats me like I’m nothing. May God decide which of us is right.”

“You decide,” said Abram. “Your maid is your business.”

Sarai was abusive to Hagar and Hagar ran away.

7-8 An angel of God found her beside a spring in the desert; it was the spring on the road to Shur. He said, “Hagar, maid of Sarai, what are you doing here?”

She said, “I’m running away from Sarai my mistress.”

9-12 The angel of God said, “Go back to your mistress. Put up with her abuse.” He continued, “I’m going to give you a big family, children past counting.

From this pregnancy, you’ll get a son: Name him Ishmael;
    for God heard you, God answered you.
He’ll be a bucking bronco of a man,
    a real fighter, fighting and being fought,
Always stirring up trouble,
    always at odds with his family.”

13 She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me!

“Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!”

14 That’s how that desert spring got named “God-Alive-Sees-Me Spring.” That spring is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

15-16 Hagar gave Abram a son. Abram named him Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar gave him his son, Ishmael.

WHAT DO WE LEARN AND HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Consider this scenario.  You hear that a friend’s birthday is coming soon.  You think your friend needs a bigger party than he usually has so you take the lead and plan it.  You have a plan in mind for the party that you think will top all other parties.  Excited just thinking about it, you get a jump on the details and even buy all the supplies for a great party.  You then go to your friend’s house to make it happen. 

The friend opens the door and sees all you have done and asks, “What’s going on?”  You reply, “I have planned a birthday party that will be the envy of all parties!”  The friend says, “That’s nice of you, but my parents have planned a fantastic, week-long trip for me to Disney and they said I could invite a friend!” “There won’t be party, because this trip this is way better!”  How embarrassing to be left holding the party goods.

When we think we can do better, we miss what is best!  God knows what is best for each one of His people.  He will invite us to what is the best for us.  Always.  Count on God.  And just wait!

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Through it all, real faith was revealed.  Sarai’s faith wavered.  Abram caved into Sarai’s weakness.  Hagar did what she was told. Bitterness set it.  Hagar was sent away, rejected for her part of Sarai’s plan.  God sees Hagar.  Hagar sees that God sees her and now she believes in Him!  This is the good that comes from what was bad.  God is good.  Trust Him.

Lord,

I repent of those times I thought about and implemented ways to “help” you accomplish your will in my life.  What was I thinking?  The evil one loves it when I step in to help you.  Help me to learn from my mistakes and missteps.  Thank you for mopping up my messes.  Thank you for your forgiveness and making things right with you.  You are God, you don’t need my help to accomplish your will and purposes but when you invite me, I’m there!  Thank you for inviting me to your work to teach me your ways.  I will wait on you and your invitation to the party. Transform my thinking and behaving…

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen!

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FAITH CORRECTS OUR COURSE

When we follow God’s will, making sweeping changes in our lives, our faith in God will be challenged and tested.  It is in the obedience, no matter what that looks like to the world, that the measure of our faith is revealed.  We believe in God in our household which is now only Randy and myself because we have learned that to do anything else is not good for us.  We are still tested by fire often for we have not arrived yet in our growing likeness to our Savior.  We still need to be purified by the holy fires that melt away the rough edges, revealing the likeness to our Master, Jesus.  Peter, who walked with Jesus on earth teaches;

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:7, NLT

We all have those times when we ask God, “Are you sure, God?”  “How do I know that I am on the right track?”  Sometimes it has to do with checking ourselves to make sure we are not doing life merely on our own steam and power.  We cannot test ourselves, purify or set things right with God.  Only by our admission of not knowing do we know God more.  Confusing? God is the Purifier.  Only God can set things right with Him when we ask, repent, believe and follow Him in obedience with all our heart, mind and soul in Jesus Name. 

Abram is no exception.  Childless Abram asks the same questions from God who told him he would have big family.  “Are you sure, God?”  “How will this happen?”  After the honest questioning, Abram believed!  This belief in God changes everything.  Faith is thinking “I don’t know how you are going to do it, I just know that you will do what you say.”  That is all.  No additions. Pure faith in God corrects our course of thinking like the world, leading us to full trust in what God says.  Believe God.  He doesn’t lie.  Lying is not in God’s nature or character.

Genesis 15, The Message

After all these things, this word of God came to Abram in a vision: “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I’m your shield. Your reward will be grand!”

2-3 Abram said, “God, Master, what use are your gifts as long as I’m childless and Eliezer of Damascus is going to inherit everything?” Abram continued, “See, you’ve given me no children, and now a mere house servant is going to get it all.”

Then God’s Message came: “Don’t worry, he won’t be your heir; a son from your body will be your heir.”

Then he took him outside and said, “Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You’re going to have a big family, Abram!”

And he believed! Believed God! God declared him “Set-Right-with-God.”

God continued, “I’m the same God who brought you from Ur of the Chaldees and gave you this land to own.”

Abram said, “Master God, how am I to know this, that it will all be mine?”

God said, “Bring me a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, and a dove and a young pigeon.”

10-12 He brought all these animals to him, split them down the middle, and laid the halves opposite each other. But he didn’t split the birds. Vultures swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram scared them off. As the sun went down a deep sleep overcame Abram and then a sense of dread, dark and heavy.

13-16 God said to Abram, “Know this: your descendants will live as outsiders in a land not theirs; they’ll be enslaved and beaten down for 400 years. Then I’ll punish their slave masters; your offspring will march out of there loaded with plunder. But not you; you’ll have a long and full life and die a good and peaceful death. Not until the fourth generation will your descendants return here; sin is still a thriving business among the Amorites.”

17-21 When the sun was down and it was dark, a smoking firepot and a flaming torch moved between the split carcasses. That’s when God made a covenant with Abram: “I’m giving this land to your children, from the Nile River in Egypt to the River Euphrates in Assyria—the country of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?

At the moment Abram believed, really believed without question, God declared Abram “set right with God”. 

When we respond to God’s direction with obedience, truly believing, God sets us on the right track with Him.  Real faith corrects our course as we follow God. 

When Abram asks, “How will I know?”  God asks Abram for a sacrifice.  Through the sacrifice and attention to the sacrifice offered to God in obedience, God reveals what will happen now and in generations to come.  God even reveals the Egypt slavery experience that His people will later endure in later generations!  Did you catch that?  God reveals more than we can understand at times.  Faith is not in the understanding but is measured by the willing, relentless obedience from a heart of love for God. 

“To obey is even better than sacrifice”, we will hear from God later through Samuel.  “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22, NLT

God sees our hearts.  Be honest and open with God.  Ask questions. Questions help us learn.  God understands and will give us information on a “need to know” basis.  Our response is to step out in faith believing.  God responds with small doses of direction that are a bit easier to swallow.  If we knew the whole picture of God’s will for us, it might paralyze us in fear.  (Mm, not “might”, but “would” bring fear and trepidation!)  God knows what He is doing and has our best interest at His heart.

Lord,

Thank you for this lesson in believing in obedience to your will and plan for each of us.  You are amazing in the ways you work in us and through us to make us holy before you and set us right with You.  Continue to purify my heart, mind and fill my soul with all of you in me.  I lay down my life as a sacrifice in obedience to your perfect will again today.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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